Sunday, May 31, 2009

To Fly

Flying to Find Herself, mixed media collage, 5" x 8"

The other week I was having a deep conversation with a dear friend of mine who is going through a major life transition. She asked me about my major life transition (which happened, oh, about five or so years ago) and I told her that through the turmoil and pain, I began to fly. At first I felt little feather wisps of air. Then, my feet felt lighter on the earth--and so did my heart. Then, I lifted up and up and saw my life from above. I saw what it could be. I began to do things that resonated with me to the core. Suddenly, I was actualizing, doing, becoming, being entirely myself.

So this above piece is dedicated to her. There are many ways to fly in this world. Sometimes all we need is a dream. Other times, we need a flower and fish and some surf to ride on. In any case, may we all remember our potential to fly. May we discover what lifts us up, fills us. Think of the power of a deep breath staying full in the body for a long time. That is how we fly. We chose to take a leap or ride a wave and follow where it takes us. We find we meet ourselves on our journey and say, yes, I recognize you, you're that woman who lifts up, lets go, and flies.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Limitation = Freedom?

Opening to Healing, mixed media, 9" x 12"

I can hardly believe that I am actually suggesting that limitations might be (gulp!) a path to freedom. Sounds crazy, doesn't it?

I first felt the odd feeling of limitations (boundaries, parameters, white picket fences, etc.) in grad school when writing poetry. I usually wrote poetry in free verse (organic form) and then started experimenting with traditional forms. I was resistant at first. A villanelle? A pantoum? A sonnet? Oh, how can I say what I need to say while following a formula? It will be like doing math! I need space and freedom!

To my surprise, writing in form opened me up. Working within constraints allowed me to think differently and surprising combinations of images and language arrived on the page. Because of the form. Thank you, Ms. Villanelle! Thank you, Mr. Pantoum!

So while here in Hawaii, my limitation comes in the form of art supplies. I am working with kiddie paint brushes and water colors and tourists magazines. No encaustic wax and thrift store books and acrylics and string. Oh, and I miss my very large supply of bird images.

The above piece is my first attempt at creating within the parameters of my supplies. I haven't watercolored in years! And I'm sure that those vibrant colors are inspired by the flowers here in Hawaii. Boundaries, specific environments, and limitations can free you up. Not all the time. Sometimes I need to push down doors and smear paint on the wall (figuratively, most of the time).

What limitation can you add to your creating life for a little trial run? One thing I sometimes do is spread out my collage images on a table, close my eyes, and pick seven images. I will use those seven images in my art. My mind and body usually figure out how to connect the images in meaningful ways. And there are always surprises.

Enjoy the play that comes with boundaries. You may discover that you actually burst through the boundaries while you work with them...

Aloha Mahalo,


Friday, May 29, 2009


Aloha from Hawaii!

I am here on Maui with my mom on a trip of restoration and healing, and just having experienced our first full day here (yesterday), I can tell you that there is something powerful about this place. While swimming in the ocean yesterday, I felt my heart lighten, my spirits lift. And last night my mom and I had a wonderfully powerful session of talking and crying about the loss of our dad/husband. The tears felt like warm tropical rain.

I plan on doing some writing while I'm here -- as well as art. I forgot to bring art supplies this trip, so yesterday I headed to the Longs Drugs in Lahaina and purchased some inexpensive art supplies (see picture above).

And I have been collecting tourist magazines for collage-making. Stay tuned for some pieces, but for now I leave you with this photograph. Maybe it will inspire your own art.

What path are you on? What path would you like to be on? Where does the path in this photograph take you?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Revisiting the Quickie

The Listening Effect, mixed media collage

Remember the quickie from my last post? Well, I revisited this 15-minute piece and decided to push it to the edge, risking ruining it, hating it. That's the key for me. To experience full creative freedom, I have to feel okay about making something ugly. (BTW, my safety net for this letting go process comes in the form of technology. I have a digital copy of my first piece, so my first effort is never lost.)

So I added more paint colors and drew and scribbled and outlined and wrote all over this piece. At one point in the beginning of my altering process, my partner said quite alarmingly, "It looks like he's in jail!" "Horizontal jail?" I asked. "Well, I guess now he looks more like he's in a book," he said. Ah-ha! So, I wrote all over the piece using my partner's observations for inspiration. And in another 20 minutes or so, here we have version number two, which I now call The Listening Effect.

If you feel like your quickie need a bit more attention, feel free to embellish with wild abandon, not worrying one inch about whether or not this version is "better" or "worse" than the first version. Move quickly and follow your gut. Your body will guide you.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Quickie

How Listening Can Be Heard Round the World, mixed media collage

Today I was in the mood for a quickie. I gave myself 15 minutes to create an art piece. This time limit included finding materials/images and creating the piece above. I wasn't methodical or precise, and I didn't focus on meaning or composition in a conscious way. I just let my body and intuition guide me.

During these 15 minutes I said to myself (mostly in my head, but occasionally aloud to my cats) things like, "yeah that feels right" and "okay, that works," and "uh-huh, yes." My body said yes:
yes to letting go of a particular result, yes to not understanding, yes to going with the flow, and fittingly, yes to listening to myself.

Body-based art-making can be tremendously powerful. I would say that I create most of my art in this manner: I don't know where I am going with my creating, but I end up following a path that my intuition sets out before me. For those of you who are more precise and methodical with your art, but get stuck in your process now and then, this "quickie" exercise is a great way to burst any restrictive or self-critical bubbles you are encountering.

Set a timer and go! When the timer dings, you are done. Let yourself sit with your art just as it is, just as you might sit with yourself in meditation, listening to your breath, feeling the gurgle in your stomach, noticing the breeze against the back of your neck. Let your art piece be entirely itself without judging it. The piece represents one moment in time. Perhaps later you can revisit it to do your tinkering. But for now, it just is.

Here is your list: you, 15 minutes, and some art supplies. Go for it.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Art for Inner Wisdom

Inner Wisdom, mixed media, 8" x 10"

I created this piece in connection to an essay I wrote over in The Healing Nest blog land. To check it out, click here.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Morning Celebration

Celebrate, encaustic, 8" x 10"

Birds do it every morning: they celebrate the coming of morning by tweeting away, almost as an invocation.

Here is my interpretation of their chirps: "It's morning! It's morning! It's light! Check it out! A new day! Let's eat bugs and worms! Find puddles to bathe in! My voice! My voice! I can hear it! Isn't it beautiful? Wake up! Good morning!"

Most mornings, I hear myself do this: Ugh. Oh. Ewugh. Ugh. Creak. Sigh.

Not terribly celebratory.

During the summer when I was about 16, what used to get me out of bed was the soap opera Days of Our Lives (shh, don't tell anyone). I recall one morning in particular when my mother entered my bedroom and declared, "Courtney, you must get up now. Marlena may not survive the exorcism." I burst out laughing as I un-cocooned myself from my comforter.

My childhood dogs were wonderful wake-up companions. My dog Kippy's flatulence often gave me a reason to get out of bed and my dog Alex's tongue bath on my neck tickled me awake.

I remember many mornings as a child in Hawaii (my family went on several trips to Hawaii throughout my childhood), when the ocean's morning ebb and flow made me rise from bed and walk to the beach to touch the new smooth sand.

And even more memorable were the mornings that my father sneaked me out of our Hawaii condo in the wee hours to take me out for coconut pancakes at the Lahaina Broiler (he treated me and my brothers to this secret outing, each on our own special morning). My father and and I drowned our pancakes with coconut syrup as we watched crabs climb up the side of the restaurant from the ocean.

Not so long ago, my partner went through a phase of placing cucumbers on my eyes in the morning during my wake-up process. Sometimes he even brought me a cup of hot lemon-chamomile tea.

All of these memories feel like celebrations of a new day. Celebrations of life.

My challenge these days is to find the moments of celebration even on mundane days, gray days, sad days -- days when I am missing my father and wish he would just tap me on the shoulder and say, "Courtney, time for coconut pancakes."

What can stand up to that coconut pancakes feeling? That's a tough act ot follow.

This spring the birds are reminding me that celebration can come in the morning--even if I am feeling confused or exhausted or sad. As Thich Naht Hanh writes, "Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me."

I am making a concsious effort to celebrate these brand new hours by finding something pleasurable in the morning--something that engages my senses. One morning I smelled my sweet orange essential oil bottle as soon as I woke to get a fresh scent of citrusy, sunshine energy. This morning, I played some disco tunes and did a wobbly, sleepy dance on my way to the shower.

It's a new day every day. A day with new possibilities. What do you do to celebrate?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Eating Serenity Like Pie

Seeking Serenity, encaustic on canvas, 5" x 5"

Metaphorical musing for the day:

If you could cut a slice of serenity like a pie and devour it today, what would be its characteristics? As you digest these perfectly serene qualities, how does your body feel?

Monday, May 04, 2009

A Horse, of Course!

Powerhorse, encaustic, 8" x 10"

During my art show** last Friday, a friend noted that this piece above included no winged creatures. So many of my art pieces (the majority of them) include birds, human or non-human figures with wings, or wing-like gestures. Powerhorse, though, is all about groundedness. No flight here. Just power, empowerment, strength, and endurance.

I've been needing this energy lately, which is why I think I created this piece. Do you find in your creative process that you create what it is that you need?

**BTW, here's a little slideshow I put on my Facebook page of my art show.